The lights are on
I've already done my round so to speak, when it comes to Telltale's many episodic exploits, and my play time with The Wolf Among Us- an episodic story based on Bill Willingham's Fables has been no different thus far. In October I reviewed the very first episode, titled Faith, and then once more I took up the role of Bigby Wolf in Smoke and Mirrors (February). Now, I come to you as a wolf in wolf's skin- for once, and bring yet another review, this time for the third of five episodes: A Crooked Mile. So far, I've had some generally positive things to say about the episodic series- even the second episode, which some people were so inclined to enjoy as much as the first. I've given the first episode a generous 8.5/10 and the second an 8/10 thus far, and you're shortly going to see how this particular chapter fared. It hasn't been too terribly long since my last review- only about two months give or take, so I'll cut to the chase and assume you've read up on what I had to say the last time around.
So far, we've already witnessed two murders and still have too few leads pointing in positive directions. We have several possible suspects, but nothing truly concrete on any of them, making this a much more complicated conundrum than it should be. Fabletown isn't without its seedy elements, and lately those have been the only ones we've really been privy to seeing- especially after the dark turn in Smoke and Mirrors. I'm beginning to think this could be some twisted fable out of Game of Thrones or something now, as every new move surprises me for the most part, and none are really to my liking- for better or for worse. The divisions between characters are becoming increasingly evident, the animosity and companionship between certain characters and Bigby is also evident, and the narrative continues to evolve in palpable and interesting ways.
Although Bigby is still trying to piece together the factual evidence compiled from his ongoing serial killer investigation and follow up on those leads, several other pressing matters have taken up his attention as well. For those of you who have yet to play this episode or the last, or maybe even any of them at all- I'll spare you the spoiling details for the time being... Well, until I make a new 'Spoiled!' type blog for the entire season that is... Mwahahaha! The pacing of A Crooked Mile is much better handled than that of Smoke and Mirrors- mainly meaning that it retains more equally recognizable portions of action, tense moments, and narrative ones instead of going all one way or another. It returns to the roots of what made the first episode successful and actively attempts to right the wrongs or the perceived misdoings of the second, making therefore for a better episode than either of the previous two.
Although it is a community of legendary creatures and fables, the reactions of the general populous of Fabletown seems legitimate and believable given the circumstances of the previous episode, and the evident fact that someone out there for some sick reason is murdering the notoriously hard-to-kill Fables for sport or to send a message. The Fables continually press you for information just as you continually try to wrap things up and pin the blame on a particularly guilty suspect. Sadly, however, some things just aren't meant to be- at least as of yet, as you don't seem to have much in the way of luck, although there is no lack for evidence supporting various theories. But nothing substantially pointing to one particular individual, which really muddies the water.
Thankfully this time around we get some more investigative opportunities to open up, and we have the chance to travel to more locations in Fabletown's diverse and multi-cultural setting. It's good to mix old sights with new ones and to not continually revisit all the same places again and again. You're specifically tasked with investigating three major scenes for potential evidence, although you get a lot more than you bargained for at each of them. You have the choice to decide which places to visit first and what exactly you are looking for at each location as well. You can follow up on researching dirt and laying blame on the Dee and Dum twins, head over to an entirely new area (the home of your newest suspect), or even attend the funeral of the most recent victim in order to get a glimpse at specific characters' reactions. It's neat to see how this episode further extends the already vast array of replayable factors, especially through which characters you encounter and how you interact with them.
However, you should make note of the fact that although you will in some way see each of these scenes for yourself, you are in fact forced to make a tough decision: splitting up the three scenes between three characters (well two and then yourself). Now, do you trust these supporting characters? Will they actually help you? Or are they hiding some ulterior motive as well? After all, Bigby has already been deceived and betrayed several times in the past two episodes alone, and I have a feeling there's plenty more to come. Interesting how trust is now such a big factor, and how important it truly is- not just in this universe, but also in our own everyday lives. And we oftentimes take it for granted. As with any good fable out there, it seems as if The Wolf Among Us has its very own morals as well... Plus, when you're hunting down a serial killer, potentially anyone could be the culprit- suspicious or not, friend or foe. That's the scariest thing about it.
As with the plot choices in the previous episodes- most similarly related to that of the critical plot choice in episode one (concerning Toad and the Prince), eventually any of the three scenes will lead you and your 'allies' to the same narrative point. There are of course several varying differences involved, however the basis for this convergence remains the same through each playthrough from each scene of interest. It's good to see that the choices you've made thus far do count for something, even if you can't always tell for what. I constantly felt as if the decisions I was making in this episode would have long-reaching and possibly dire consequences by the fifth, so now that I am fully committed I can't wait to see where things go from here.
Murder, corruption, and greed play vital roles in the themes of The Wolf Among Us, and as the story progresses I wouldn't be surprised to see other deadly sins and vices added to the already potent mix. You'll constantly be performing a perilous balancing act as you convince certain Fables to aid you, fight some others off, and generally try to coax information of any sort from them- making the dialogue and thereby extension the narrative top of the tier in this episode, and much better than the previous ones. The dialogue options themselves cater to vastly different play styles, and I really enjoyed the more freedom that Telltale has been giving players rather than the pretty much one, two, or three choices and decisions to be made in the equally dark and brutal Walking Dead episodes.
All in all, A Crooked Mile is probably my favorite episode of the season thus far and one of my favorite Telltale episodic releases to date as well, beating out even several Walking Dead episodes in recent memory. The pacing, the outcomes of decisions, and the data all streaming together make it a worthwhile episode to experience and the continuation of an interesting narrative truly is a beautiful sight to behold indeed. Just when you think you can see how the cake will bake, you realize you're in fact peeling an onion and that for each layer gone there are several more thin ones beneath. If the series here were a beast, it probably be a hydra- for every one problem fixed two more or even three, in this case, seem to show up. Even better, there's a slight revelation at the end of the chapter- well two really, and I'm interested to see what they will entail in the final two to come...
Concept: Are you ready to beat some heads, investigate some new leads, and take the law into your hands as the Big Bad Wolf once more? You'd better come prepared for the axe to drop if you're planning on playing this episode.
Graphics: If you thought the previous episodes were dark and gritty, be prepared to embrace an even darker narrative series of twists as Bigby and Co explore the leads they've been given and encounter some...unexpected circumstances.
Sound: The voice acting is still very well done, the diverse characters you encounter really feel like different people- and sound like it to of course. All in all the tense moments play to the perfect beat and the soundtrack elements never miss a thematic shuffle about hitherto thitherto.
Playability: The controls are tighter than before, which is an added bonus even though they worked pretty much perfectly already. Also, the dialogue has been significantly beefed up and the role-playing elements increased further to boot.
Entertainment: The story continues to evolve in interesting and mostly unexpected ways, and you'll have to hold on for dear life if you want to make it all the way to the final destination it intends to bring you to- roaring full tilt the entire way. I have a feeling we won't be getting a mellow ending anytime soon...
Replay Value: High.
Overall Score: 8.75
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